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4 Lessons from an Ancient Master Teacher That Can Transform Nursing Education Today

By May 29, 2014June 8th, 2023No Comments

It is essential to have a mentor who is a role model who guides us and is a living example to help us become the very best nurse educator we can be. I hope you have that person to guide you.

There was a master teacher who lived over 2,000 years ago that can also be a guide and mentor for educators today as well. I believe that if nursing education were to adopt 4 practical principles from his life and example, needed change and transformation could begin immediately in our classrooms and clinical settings!


The 4 principles that were represented in his life and how he taught others included the following:

  1. He used the power of a STORY to make essential and foundational truths memorable
  2. He took lengthy teachings and broke them down to their bare essence
  3. He really loved and appreciated people; even those who were difficult and unlovable
  4. He lived out by example what he believed and taught

Let’s look more closely at these principles one at a time to see how they can translate to all we do in nursing education.

1. The Power of a Good Story

How often do you use stories to illustrate important points in your classroom or clinical discussions with students? Do you feel that textbook knowledge is more important and must be emphasized as well as all the content that needs to be “covered”? If so, you are falling into a common trap that ensnares many educators.

Students will learn more from your living, relevant stories as a nurse in practice than dry textbook knowledge that is decontextualized from practice. The use of a good story to make essential, foundational truths come alive so they can be readily applied was also demonstrated by this master teacher. You will be in good company if you consistently use STORY as an educator because this was also the most common pedagogy used by him as he taught others.

The Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are just a couple of the stories told by this teacher. Though these stories are told by a religious leader, they are so powerful that they transcend religious and cultural norms. If you stop to assist anyone in need of care, you too can be referred to as a “Good Samaritan” and in most states are protected legally by “Good Samaritan” laws that will absolve you of liability for care provided in good faith.


2. Simplify the Complex

This master teacher had the remarkable ability to take 17 books of the law and prophets that represented hundreds of pages and break it all down to only 4 sentences and 52 words!

Though this may not be possible with your fundamentals or med/surg textbooks, as an expert nurse and now a nurse educator, you know what your students need to know for practice! Learn from the example of this master teacher and make it a priority to NOT emphasize how much content you expect your students to know, but to take every subject you teach and every chapter you cover and break it DOWN to the most simple and basic common denominator.

Your over riding goal as a nurse educator is DEEP learning of what is MOST important!

Remember that LESS IS MORE and by emphasizing the essence of NEED TO KNOW content, your students will be able to more readily understand and then APPLY what is taught.


3. Love & Value Humanity

The example of this master teacher still speaks volumes and can inspire us today. He really loved people just as they were regardless of their social class or past history. He saw the value and worth of humanity. He touched “unclean” lepers, had friends who were tax collectors and former prostitutes, and was consistently motivated by caring and compassion as he selflessly served others and spent long hours teaching the multitudes by the shores of lakes or on the mountainside.

Based on my survey data regarding the current struggles of nurse educators in practice, it was painfully clear that there is a frustration by some educators that is leading to a devaluing and lack of appreciation for both students and faculty colleagues.

Educators are struggling with resentment that they feel towards students who feel entitled and deserve a good grade because they paid for it. Nurse educators also have one of the highest rates of incivility that is characterized by demeaning and disrespectful interactions.

Ironically, this same teacher also taught something known as the “Golden Rule” that can and should guide our conduct and attitude towards one another in all that we do:

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”

Do you see the value or only the problem of those you come in contact with in nursing education? If we look for the bad, we are sure to find it, but we must also make the effort to see the inherent worth, value and positive attributes of even the most difficult colleagues or students!

I too struggle with this regularly in clinical practice! As an experienced ED nurse I can quickly go from full of care and compassion to angry cynic and sour on humanity in seconds depending on the patients that can/do push my buttons!


4. Live it Out

Another example of this master teacher was his impeccable integrity. He practiced what he preached! Even though he associated with former prostitutes, his character and behaviour was never an item of scandelous gossip.

What are you like when nobody is watching and it is only you and your students? So much of what is MOST important in nursing education must be CAUGHT not TAUGHT! For example caring and compassion and its relevance to nursing care must be demonstrated in our life and interactions with our students or educators will fail to impact our students by our example.

By living out the core values of our profession we can be educators who will then make a lasting impact on the next generation!

Closing Thoughts

This educator and teacher was so influential that when we orient a patient to the year, our calendar is based on when he was born, 2014 AD (anno domini, in the year of our Lord).

Many of you know  by now who this master educator is. It is Jesus of Nazareth. But regardless of your religious persuasion, the historical narrative of his life, his example, and how he taught still speak and can guide us today in nursing education by following his example.

It is my hope and prayer that every reader will take seriously not only what we can learn from his life as an educator and how he treated others, but more importantly experience the reality of personal transformation that he offers as well!

Comment Question:

What principles from this master teacher are you already incorporating in your program? What principles would you like to incorporate in the future?

Keith Rischer – Ph.D., RN, CCRN, CEN

As a nurse with over 35 years of experience who remained in practice as an educator, I’ve witnessed the gap between how nursing is taught and how it is practiced, and I decided to do something about it! Read more…

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